Austria’s slalom specialist
Over the course of a 15-year international career, Austrian skier Marlies Schild racked up a record number of victories in women’s FIS World Cup slalom events and won no fewer than four Olympic medals.
Born in Styria (AUT), Marlies Schild shone in skiing’s speed events (downhill and super-G) during her teenage years, but after suffering a series of knee injuries and having to undergo several operations, she made the judicious decision to concentrate on the less dangerous technical disciplines, particularly slalom.
The Austrian’s aptitude on the slopes enabled her to rapidly become part of the national “Wunderteam” and she competed in her first Olympic Winter Games at Salt Lake City 2002 at the age of 20, although she failed to finish the first run of the slalom competition.
From her FIS World Cup breakthrough in Sestriere (ITA) on 13 March 2004 until her final triumph on 29 December 2013 in Lienz (AUT), Schild chalked up 35 wins, surpassing the previous record of 34 held by Swiss skiing icon Vreni Schneider, achieved between 1987 and 1995.
In addition, Schild earned four small crystal globes in the slalom (in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012) and became world champion in the discipline on 19 February 2011 in Garmisch-Partkenkirchen (GER). However, her career was interspersed by long periods of rehabilitation, caused by two separate knee injuries, suffered in October 2008 and December 2012.
Three podiums in a row
The fiancée of Benjamin Raich, who won gold medals in the slalom and giant slalom at Turin 2006, Schild experienced the joy of an Olympic podium for the first time at the same Games on 18 February. Having recorded the seventh-best time in the downhill portion of the combined, she stepped up a gear to finish top of the slalom standings, thereby claiming a well-earned silver medal behind an impressive Janica Kostelic (CRO).
A few days later, she added an Olympic bronze medal in the slalom event, which was won by Sweden’s Anja Pärson. She went one better at Vancouver 2010, registering the fastest time in the second run to secure silver behind Maria Höfl-Riesch (GER), who prevailed by 43/100th of a second.
Finally, on 21 February 2014 at Sochi’s Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, Schild boosted her Olympic medal tally to four, once again showing great technical prowess and agility during the second run of the slalom. Unfortunately, her efforts were not enough to prevent precocious 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) from capturing the Olympic title, but her silver in Sochi meant that she had become the first female skier to medal at three successive Winter Games.
A new chapter
“I’m happy to have won a medal,” she stated in Sochi. “I’ve now collected four Olympic medals in my career. Of course, I’m missing a gold, but I’ve won so many other races. I’ve been world champion and I’ve got four Olympic medals, so I’ve not really got anything to complain about!”
On 2 September 2014, Schild, 33, announced her retirement from skiing at a press conference in Vienna. “The time has come for me to start a new chapter in my life,” she said. “I’ve been able to achieve the things I dreamt of as a little girl, and for that I’m very grateful. All I want to do now is start a family.”